Dark Wolf Page 33

He had begun to return to the others, ready to call in the dragons to burn the hell out of the Lycans, when he heard a roar that sent chills up his spine and stopped every Lycan in their tracks. Below him, Zev rushed at Gunnolf in his Lycan form, accepting the challenge for leadership.

Lycans fought for supremacy bare-handed. They didn’t kill one another as a rule. It happened in the heat of battle, but very rarely. Gunnolf swung around to meet Zev, lunging forward, but not before Fen saw the signal he gave to Convel.

The Lycans formed a circle around the two combatants, abandoning their efforts to enter the haven harboring the four escapees.

Convel inched his way around behind Zev, his hand on his sword. Fen made his decision. He’d been angry with Zev, certain the Lycan had betrayed them all, yet Zev clearly was trying to stop the assault on those already wounded.

Fen made the decision to trust him. They had fought together in battles before and Fen wasn’t about to let him get cut down from behind. As far as they all knew, Fenris was Lycan.

If you get the chance, if the distraction is enough, the three of you slip inside and help the others. I’m going to remain on the outside and do what I can to figure out what is happening. I still believe there is someone at work, someone behind this trying to start a war between Lycan and Carpathian.

Whoever it was, if such a person existed, was very close to their goal. Fen came striding out of the forest, moving fast, a graceful flow of muscle and sinew, dressed in trousers with a belt holding an array of weapons, his boots with loops inside holding silver stakes as well as two knives, and his long coat concealing even more weapons. His long hair was pulled back severely from his face, flowing down his back, caught at the nape with a cord wrapped around the length to keep it from getting caught on anything as he fought.

He came up behind Convel just as the Lycan drew his sword and made his slash at Zev’s unprotected back. Fen’s sword seemed to come out of nowhere, parrying the blow and following it around in a semicircle, sparks showering down in the night. A collective gasp went through the Lycan ranks at such treachery. Even those Gunnolf led seemed to be shocked.

Zev threw Gunnolf off of him, following up his advantage, leaping onto the Lycan and driving him to the ground with such enormous strength the ground shook. Zev spared one quick glance behind him to see Fen and Convel battling with swords.

Tatijana, Vlad and Byron took advantage of the moment when all the Lycans were occupied watching the four combatants. Energy was flashing through the clearing almost as bright as the two swords clashing. The ring of metal against metal was loud in the stillness.

Gunnolf rolled free and leapt to his feet, gasping for air. He tore his shirt away, showing a mouthful of teeth as he circled Zev. Twice he wiped the blood from his muzzle and licked it from his claw-tipped hands.

“You disobeyed the council,” Zev accused, loud enough for all Lycans to hear. “You went directly against their orders. You lied to us all, and you put the lives of the council members in jeopardy along with those of everyone here.”

Gunnolf charged, rushing Zev. At the last moment, his clawed hands returned to those of a man’s, enabling him to pull a silver dagger from his belt and slice viciously across Zev’s arm. Blood sprayed over the treacherous Lycan. Zev let out a string of curse words, leaping back away from the man who had followed him for so many years—a man who had been his friend. No Lycan ever drew silver on another—not unless they were rogue. Another collective gasp went up in the Lycan circle.

Fen had his hands full keeping Convel from working his way around him in order to take a slice at Zev. He was faster and stronger than the Lycan, but he couldn’t accidently give himself away as a mixed blood. He had to toe a fine line, fighting just well enough to appear nearly evenly matched.

“Clearly you’re supposed to kill your alpha,” Fen said, in a mild, but carrying voice. He wanted the other Lycans to be aware of the true nature of both challengers. “You and Gunnolf obviously planned to kill Zev during your raid on wounded people. Was that the true goal? Getting rid of the man who had the true ear of the council?”

Convel drove at him hard and fast with his sword, moving easily over the uneven ground, clearly an accomplished swordsman. To be an elite hunter he would have to be. He had confidence. He had experience, and he expected to cut Fen down quickly.

Gunnolf grinned at Zev, once again licking at the drops of blood catching in the fur along the back of his hand and arm. “Your time is over.”

“You don’t have the brains to come up with this plot on your own,” Zev said. He ignored the wide slice on his arm, although blood was pouring from the wound. “Who gave the order for Dimitri to be sentenced to the Moarta de argint?”

“Dimitri,” Gunnolf snarled. He spat on the ground in disgust, circling Zev, looking for an opening for the attack. “You mean the Sange rau? Why do you champion him? I have noticed you have become very friendly with Carpathians. Is it possible you are mixed blood and you seek to save your own kind?”

Another collective gasp went up, and the Lycans closest to the two combatants moved back, putting distance between them and a possible Sange rau.

Zev shrugged his shoulders, his gaze fixed on his opponent. “You have betrayed our council, Gunnolf. You put them all in jeopardy. You’ve disobeyed nearly every law we have. Even now, you do not fight fair, challenging me for leadership, yet not following the rules of the pack. Calling me a hated and feared name seems a desperate tactic. If that’s all you have left, put down your weapons and allow me to take you into custody.”

“There is no fairness when fighting a Sange rau,” Gunnolf countered. “We kill them—exterminate them where we find them.”

He rushed Zev again, feinting to his right and then striking left, the dagger still gripped in his hand. Zev was ready this time, avoiding the razor-sharp blade and catching Gunnolf’s wrist in his unbreakable grip, bending it back and away from Gunnolf so that the wolf fell to the ground. Zev retained possession of the wrist, extracting the dagger and tossing it away.

Gunnolf rolled, howling as an audible snap signaled that his wrist was broken. He kicked out at Zev, driving him back just enough to leap back to his feet. The two bodies came together with a loud crash.

Fen parried Convel’s sword, over and over, but never once gave ground, guarding Zev’s back from the Lycan determined to cut his pack leader from behind. The swordplay was fast and ferocious. Convel tried to drive Fen from his position, but Fen fought him back, increasing the strength of each cut minutely, ratcheting up the speed so skillfully that at first Convel didn’t notice the difference.

Convel obviously recognized that Fen was every bit as skilled as he was with a sword. His expression changed from pure confidence to anger and then desperation. He was now on the defensive, frantically meeting each cut of Fen’s sword. His movements were just that little bit too slow. His footwork began to suffer as time after time the heavy metal jarred his arms and sent shockwaves through his entire body.

He tried to retreat, but the blows kept coming relentlessly, so hard, so fast, he couldn’t begin to keep up with Fen.

“Throw your sword down,” Fen advised. “And face the council.”

Convel couldn’t if he wanted to. His grip was so tight, adrenaline and fear gluing his fingers to the hilt. Fen feinted toward him and triumph burst through the Lycan. At last, Fen had made a terrible mistake. He thrust hard straight at his opponent’s body, putting everything he had into that attack, determined to kill him.

Fen wasn’t there, he’d glided to the other side, and Convel never saw the sword coming at him. He heard it, that betraying whisper as the sword, seemingly alive, cut through the air straight at him. He felt the energy, so aggressive and deadly, rushing toward him. The blade was so sharp he actually didn’t feel the cut as it sliced through flesh and bone. He was dead before he hit the ground, his sword slipping through lifeless fingers.

Dimitri, this is one of your enemies gone, Fen whispered into his brother’s mind.

He took the opportunity to glance into the haven Skyler had created there in the meadow. Tatijana was inside.

Do they live? he asked his lifemate.

Tatijana smoothed back Dimitri’s hair from his forehead. She had never seen a body so torn and battered, not even in the ice caves of her father’s torture chamber. The burns were deep and vicious. Healing the wounds, if even possible, would take time.

He is fighting to save her. Take care of business out there, and I’ll see to the wounded.

She didn’t tell him what she suspected—that Dimitri had possessed Skyler’s body and was undergoing the conversion with her. The idea was distasteful and wrong. No one should ever possess another’s body. For her especially, and for Skyler herself, it was such a crime, an abomination.

Tatijana’s father, Xavier, had made a practice of possessing his son’s body, seducing women and getting them pregnant. He wanted Carpathian blood for immortality. Skyler had been born of such an unholy unity. Possession was taboo in any species. Her stomach churned, but she forced herself to get past her aversion and examine Skyler’s body.

She’d been shot multiple times. Someone had packed rich loam in the wounds in anticipation of her conversion. She sent herself outside her own body to become pure healing spirit. Entering Skyler’s body confirmed her worst fears, Skyler was not alone; if anything, there was more Dimitri than Skyler.

The idea was so repugnant to her that Tatijana found herself back in her own body, thrown there by a force outside herself.

“What is it?” Byron asked. “Is she dead?”

Tatijana took a deep breath. She felt oily, dirty even. Wrong. “I don’t know. How’s Josef doing?”

Josef lifted a hand and waved at her, still feeding from his uncle’s wrist.

Vlad smoothed a hand over Josef’s blue-tipped spiky hair. “He’ll be fine once he’s in the ground,” he assured.

Josef closed the pinpricks on Byron’s wrist and looked from one man to the other. Twice he opened his mouth and closed it, blinking rapidly. “You came,” was all he managed to get out, choking a little and turning his face away.

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